The Face Of Angels: Contest summary

Dealing cards and hand size

The hand size for all players except the World is five cards. The World's hand size is five plus the Act number. (The prologue counts as Act 0 for this purpose.) At all points of the game outside of a contest, players should have a number of cards in their hand equal to their hand size. The World is the dealer and is responsible for the cards.

If ever there are not enough cards in the draw pile to refill everyone's hand outside of a contest, or to draw extra cards inside a contest, the discard pile should be shuffled and it becomes the new draw pile.

Starting a contest

Contests are always between two players, and characters they control. A contest happens when one player says that a character they control is going to do something and another player thinks that shouldn’t happen, at least not without some opposition. Others can jump in and help one side or the other, but the contest is specifically between those two players. The person that wants to make the contested action is the initiator and the person who is providing the opposition is the respondent. In play, often someone will anticipate opposition and state they want a contest, but someone still has to step up and give that opposition.

The initiator is required to set stakes - that is, they say what they want to happen if they win the contest (in this case, played with cards) and what they’re willing to have happen if they lose. These stakes must follow the guidelines for stakes for that act.

The respondent has to decide whether those stakes are OK. If so, the respondent accepts and then states the pace: that is, are they playing cards for one, two, or three tricks? If not, though, the respondent can change either the condition if the initiator wins or the condition if the initiator loses, but not both. The respondent states the new condition, and this is bounced back over to the initiator. The initiator gets the same choice: change the winning condition, change the losing condition, or accept the conditions and set the pace.


The initiator of the contest begins with initiative. He should lay down a card and state his action to achieve his goal. This action must be tied into the card he is playing. The card suits, and realms of action are:

  • Strength/Violence (Clubs)
  • Empathy/Instinct (Hearts)
  • Dominance/Power (Spades)
  • Intelligence/Resources (Diamonds)

Playing the denial of one of these to the other player, especially if you are the World and playing an inanimate force, is totally legitimate.

So, if you were attempting to convince someone to help you, and you played an eight of hearts, you might describe your character appealing to them for friendship or romance. If you played an eight of diamonds, you might describe your character demanding their help. If you played an eight of clubs, you might describe your character pushing them on the shoulder and threatening them. If you played an eight of diamonds, you might describe your character telling them why it is logical to help or you might have your character bribe them.

The degree of "oomph" in your character's action need not be tied to the power of the card. If you do intend to win, however, you will want to play a powerful card. Cards follow the order in a standard card game, with aces high.


After the initiator has laid down a card, the respondent must respond. There are two ways to beat the initiator's card: play an equal or higher card of the same suit or play a winning trump card. (It is entirely possible to play a functionally identical card to the initiator's because of the helping rules below.) You do not have to only play these options, though - you may play any card in your hand.
You must be able to narrate a response in the realm of action your card represents.


In the simplest case, the respondent has won if his card is equal to or higher than the initiator's and is in the same suit. Otherwise, the initiator has won.

However, if the initiator has played a card in his trump suit and the respondent has not, the initiator wins. If the respondent has played a card in his trump suit and the initiator has not, the respondent wins. If both have played a card in their trump suit, they count as being in the same suit and the higher card wins, with the respondent winning ties, as normal.

If there are tricks left to win, the player who played the card with the highest numerical value seizes initiative, whether or not they won. As normal, the respondent wins ties. This means that for the next hand, they are the initiator.


Other players can get into a contest and help out either side. After the initiator has laid down a card and the respondent has laid down a card, anyone who wants to help the initiator gets a chance. They may lay down a card and describe the action of a character they control. If the character they are controlling has a trump suit, that suit determines if the card is a trump card.

After everyone who wants to help the initiator has placed a card, anyone who wants to help the respondent can place a card, using the same rules.

Both the initiator and the respondent should take all cards on their side. They will decide which card is their point card, which is compared to see who won. All other cards used to help them are helper cards and add 1 to their point card's value. It is possible to have a card higher than an Ace in this fashion, called Ace + 1, Ace + 2, and so on.


Trumping is simple. Each protagonist character has a trump suit representing the area of his or her superhuman powers. If anyone in the contest lays down a card in their trump suit and then describes themselves using that power, the card counts as a trump card. (It is entirely possible to play a card in your trump suit as a regular card.) A trump card beats anything except another trump card, which it would be compared numerically against.

You cannot play a trump card if you are not playing your protagonist character.

One way to think about a trump suit is as a fifth suit which always wins.

When you help someone with one of your character's trump cards, it counts as a trump if used as the point card.

Using relationships

Character players can bring their friends into any contest any time they like. When they choose to do this, they receive an extra card immediately. The relationship can be present in a contest scene without actually making it part of the contest.

The World can bring a character's foes into any contest any time he likes. When he chooses to do this, he receives an extra card immediately. A character player can bring his own foes into a contest as well, but the World still gets the extra card.

There are risks to bringing in relationships, detailed in each act. If you lose the overall contest, detrimental things can happen to your relationship.


Super-trumping only happens when someone plays their super-trump card when playing their protagonist character. He or she must describe the character using its powers in an amazing and transformative manner. In fact, the player must immediately choose one of the transformations from the current act to apply to his character. The entire contest ends immediately with that character winning.

If you have another character's super-trump card and they are in a contest, you can help with that card no matter whether you control a character in the scene or not. If you do this, it counts as the character's super-trump. You get to describe the character using its powers in an amazing and transformative manner, and you get to choose the transformation for that character.

Personality types and contests

Each personality type can affect the resolution system in their own special way.

Kings benefit from leading others. When helped, all cards given to them used as point cards give +2 to the point card, if the point card is the one they originally played.

Queens benefit from helping others. When they help someone else, their card adds +3 to the point card if used as a helping card.

Jacks are specialists in a specific area. When the setup or the stakes of a contest are in their area, they can draw an extra card before the contest. If the area later becomes part of the contest, they can draw an extra card at that time.

Aces get a special type of contest called going for broke. When they call for a going-for-broke contest (they must be the initiator to do so), three hands of cards will be played and the winner of the contest will be determined from who won the majority of tricks. If the Ace player loses all three tricks, both sides win their stakes. If this is not possible, then negotiate before the contest for the closest way for this to happen.

Revealing secrets

When a player plays a card either against someone else's PC or in order to help that PC, he can reveal the secret of that character that his PC thinks he knows. He must do this in character narration. If that character's player says the secret is true, the card is a trump card. If that character's player says the secret is false, then he must hand his cards to the other player. That player will sort out what he wants and hand back the same number of cards to the character's player.

Winning the contest

You play for tricks, describing what’s happening in the scene, until one person has won the specified number of tricks. That person is the winner. There should be some wrap-up narration, and the person who played the highest card numerically in the last trick - not necessarily the winner - is responsible for that narration.

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